IWH Trade Association And Professional Body

The Institute for Work at Height (IWH) was initially formed as a trade association in January 2009, being a merger of the Specialised Access Engineering Manufacturers Association (SAEMA) and the Rope Access And Fall Arrest Association (RAFAA), desirous of creating safety awareness and in turn “professionalism in the overall Work At Height Industry”. Soon other sectors of the work at height industry joined, and the seven different chambers were created.

The members all agreed that their input in the development of the necessary skills was lacking and they thus decided to apply for the registration of a Professional Body, and in November 2012, the Institute for Work at Height Professional Body received official recognition from SAQA.

Work at Height is a specialisation for other occupations to allow these occupations to work safely at elevated heights, by means of specialised equipment which include:


  • Rope access
  • Steel scaffolding
  • Access towers and ladders
  • Mobile elevating work platforms
  • Temporary suspended platforms
  • Falsework, as well as
  • Fall protection (which is generic to all work at height trades)

Working at height cuts across a large spectrum of industries such as construction, building, maintenance, electrical work, welding, telecoms and other infrastructure developments. The IWH Professional Body is in fact a key player in the training process. Having the Trade Association as its ‘bed partner’, the IWH PB is indeed ideally suited to undertake this role simply because it represents the voice of the Industry.

In its initial formation, the IWH spend a lot of time in improving all the other chambers, but Scaffolding and Falsework had its own challenges which was difficult to resolve.

Scaffolding and Falsework

The IWH started a process of assisting the scaffold and falsework industry in 2014. The challenges in this industry was unique, as the members that were experiencing problems were those who employed permanent scaffold and falsework erectors, and not those who use these structures simply for access.

Construction crews rely on scaffolders to erect sturdy platforms for them to stand on when they work on tall buildings, stadiums, bridges and other lofty structures. Some even work in the shipping, oil and mining industries so builders can construct ships, erect oil derricks and support mines. Scaffolders calculate the amount of materials they need for construction projects, such as the wood and steel support tubes, and test the scaffolding for durability. They must also disassemble the scaffolding when projects are completed.

Scaffolding can be very dangerous and consistently results in accidents for construction workers. It has statically been noted that while falls are a major source of personal injury in the construction injury, falls from scaffolding is one of the leading reasons for a fall.

Internationally, scaffolding is being trained as a proper occupational qualification and, in some cases, as a registered trade, whilst in South Africa it was structured as short unit standard-based programmes. Although SANS 10085 indicated how the training should have been structured so that the person are trained over two to three years, inclusive of workplace experience, this was hardly checked for compliance in the industry.

The construction and various other industries have identified a need to develop a proper “scaffolding qualification” to address one of the scarce skills identified by the NSDS. Scaffolding services in South Africa have become an increasing necessity in the transformation of the country into a first world entity, with a thriving infrastructure of buildings and construction works encompassing all wet and dry trades. Scaffolding services are required for a variety of projects taking place daily in South Africa.

Various scaffolding systems provide contractors with a lot of benefits due to their increased safety, ease of assembly and dismantling of scaffolding structures. Scaffolding is a key element of the construction industry. With the use of scaffolding, structures can be constructed. Scaffolding is used to create support for formwork to be completed in building construction. Scaffolding services are also used as a support structure for workers to access parts of the permanent structure which are difficult and dangerous to reach or to perform various other tasks within or around a permanent structure.

The IWH PB is in the final stage of submitting new scaffold and falsework qualifications to the QCTO for registration, which will allow learners to develop skills required in the workplace. The generic competence will enable learners to transfer this competence to other streams of specialisation within the building and civil construction Industry.

The scaffold qualification will include proficiencies to work as a:

  • General worker
  • Scaffold hand
  • Scaffold fixer
  • Scaffold erector
  • Scaffold inspector; and
  • Scaffold supervisor

The falsework qualification will include proficiencies to work as a:

  • General worker
  • Shutter hand
  • Falsework erector
  • Class A1 falsework inspector, and
  • Falsework foreman

There is a critical need in the industry to have suitably trained people who can conduct the essential scaffolding and falsework operations associated within the industry safely and efficiently. This will lead to competence in the scaffold industry to grow the South African economy and boost much-needed job creation. It will also lead to a balanced society in that learners will understand how the work they do, fits into the greater construction industry and contributes to inclusive economic growth and social development.

 The newly developed scaffold and falsework qualifications will enhance safe working conditions and decrease the number of incidents at height. It should have a strong secondary effect on industry growth by professionalising the environment and enhancing skills of unskilled labourers, thus increasing employability in the country through the correct behaviour in the industry enhancing safety and creating employment.

For more information you are welcome to email the CEO, Dr Alti Kriel, at ceo@ifwh.co.za.


Posted in Construction Health and Safety.

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